VetsWork: “My Dream is a Dream No Longer”

jimmy-pardo

In a strange series of fortunate events, my wife and I are moving off the Mt. Adams Ranger District after two incredible years in a 1932 Ranger Assistant cabin built by the very capable young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps. It’s a dream cabin without a doubt, but finding our own place has been a goal of ours knowing that we’d love to stay in the area after my last internship. We knew moving out of this Forest Service cabin would be bittersweet and have soaked up each day enjoying Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter in all their Cascadian majesty. 

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After three years in the VetsWork program I’ve exhausted AmeriCorps’ 4 term limit, having also been a member of the Public Lands Stewards program in 2013. Through the Mt. Adams Institute I have served in the the Mt. Hood National Forest, Gifford Pinchot Headquarters and the Mt. Adams Ranger District. In each position I had the pleasure of exploring local hikes, getting to know the communities and creating great memories with my wife, coworkers and friends. This current position here in Trout Lake, Washington has been the luminous cherry on top of the mountain and now we hope to create our own place, although temporary, where we can continue to work & play in this valley of dreams. I’d say more about it, but I’d hate for people to have a romantic sense of this place without knowing the work required to be here. I love it for many lofty reasons, but also because of the hard work and the great people this environment creates. Its a trade off of struggles living so close to nature versus living in a city. There’s no traffic or buildings obscuring the open view of the horizon, but there’s also no public transportation, major stores, fast food, movie theaters or music venues (or lots of people). The solitude is wonderful, if you enjoy your own company. If you don’t, you could go a lil stir crazy, especially in the Winter.

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To me, the hard work it takes to be in the forest year round is just too much fun and so rewarding, I don’t know how I could ever go back to a city. Thankfully we have been offered a very unique opportunity to reside in a stretch of land on the Washington side of the Columbia, just as close to both my wife and I’s workplaces.

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So whats so special about this place? It’s almost completely off-grid; No power, century-old spring-fed water and no cell service at all! This can be daunting for some, but for me it makes me smile just thinking about it.

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The past several months we have been preparing for this move in big ways. I purchased a sweet little 1997 red Mazda truck to haul wood and handle light amounts of snow. I didn’t think I would ever fall in love with a truck, but with a tape deck and the soundtrack from the movie Stand By Me, I feel like a time-traveler. If you haven’t seen the movie (and you should) it was filmed in a small town north of Eugene, called Brownsville (Castle Rock in the film). What Ive been feeling is a kind of nostalgia for a place I’ve never been, for an era not my own. Imagine crossing old bridges, hauling wood to an off-grid cabin and blasting this old tune. Good times.

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When I don’t have rainbows and unicorn filling my head with what the winter will be like, I imagine the complete opposite.

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So I also now have an old snowmobile and am still piling up as much wood as possible. We have an old propane stove, a new propane fridge all with new gas lines, regulator, gauges and shut of valves. We’ll store lots of water, but the spring apparently works through Winter. Currently Ive been building our outhouse which about as happy as I can get working on a poop throne. Ive loved outhouses way before I started cleaning them for the Forest Service. In fact theres a great little book called The Vanishing American Outhouse which comically details all the problems of indoor plumbing (acoustical mainly) and how some of the best ideas came from sitting in outhouses! Ha!

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All the materials for everything we build at this place have mainly come from the Rebuild-It Center in Hood River. They’ve got it all and its cheap! Otherwise there’s a lot of old lumber on the property that we are taking advantage of.

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A huge bit of progress was getting a new phone line dug and connected, so now we are spoiled with that and limited internet. It took some patience and thankfully my supervisors allowed me to work my schedule around the installation.

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Its a humble little cabin and while many think, “Wow, you’re going to live in there?!”… I am encouraged by so many who remind me that they have lived in cabins like this and even with a few kiddos!

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Living with less, pulling myself through the eye of a needle, is exactly what most of my heroes have done or did through their best years.

One Mans Wilderness by Richard Proenneke is another inspiring read (The film adaptation is called Alone in the Wilderness). In it he journals his adventure of building a log cabin at the age of fifty in the Alaskan Wilderness and would go on to live there for 30 some-odd years in peace and harmony, only leaving when hauling water from a frozen lake became too difficult. From his writings you hear of the awesome beauty of his new home, the solitude, seasons, but also the effort put into being where your heart calls.

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With this new home we’ll be steeped in nature and learning valuable practical skills that will not only benefit my work with the Forest Service, but as Richard Proennekke said, [quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]”(Our) dream is a dream no longer.”[/quote]

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VetsWork: Sense of Place – Tomorrow is History

Jimmy Pardo

So much has happened since I started working with the Mt. Adams Institute (MAI). My first experience with MAI was with the Public Lands Steward (PLS) program in 2013 and I am now in my third year with the VetsWork program. It continues to be such a rewarding experience for me both personally and professionally. On-the-job experience as well as new skills have made me into a far more confident prospect for work with a land management agency. Though I can’t help, but to curiously look at the bigger picture of our world and my place in it. One thing is certain, I love being in nature and so does this community in/around Trout Lake, Washington

This is my second year working on the Mt. Adams Ranger District as, both, an intern for the Mt. Adams Institute doing graphic design/social media and with the US Forest working with developed recreation. The two sides of this unique internship make for a very spoiling work balance.

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Three days out of the week I am sharing blogs (like this one!), making flyers, managing our facebook and instagram accounts as well as making videos from time to time. This is a lot fun for anyone who enjoys being creative and sharing the beauty of the natural world. The work I support at the MAI office is not just needed, but very rewarding and I’m honored to be a part of so many new chapters for our interns, past and present. The staff here at MAI makes our day-to-day work so much fun. We meet weekly to stay on top of each programs varying schedules and their related tasks. We’re privileged to have a really solid team of great human beings who go above and beyond to make sure our interns have the support they need to be successful.

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2015 PNW VetsWork Graduation – Family, friends, members & staff.

Two days out of the week I am geared up and ready for almost anything nature can throw my way. The work with developed recreation varies with the seasons and currently we’ve been making the switch from servicing Snoparks to day-use areas, trails and campgrounds. On one day I may be cleaning outhouses. Another, I might be rerouting a trail with a crew of hard working inmates from the nearby counties and yet another day I might be on my own, scouting a trail for future log out (trial clearing). It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, cold or just mentally a tough day… I always make sure to look at the beauty that is all around me. It is ever present for those that take the time to notice. It may not be quantifiable data or even be directly connected to the project you’re working on, but if I wanted to have tunnel vision just for the work, I would be robbing myself of the perks of working in nature. Observing the wildlife, weather and changes in the forests further connects me to mother nature and those who love her.

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Sense of Place

Lately I’ve been reading Chief Joseph: The Biography of A Great Indian by Chester Anders Fee. It was published in 1936 and though I had plenty of modern alternatives to choose from, I went with this older and spend-ier hard back. Perhaps it was the magic of the oldest bookstore in Oregon, Klindts Booksellers (open since 1870) that drew me deeper into our local US history, the forming of the Oregon Trail and the heartbreaking removal/genocide of almost all natives tribes from this country.

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While learning the gritty details of the mixing of these two very different cultures, settlers and the tribes, I can’t help but feel like part of the story when I am here in the very region where this surreal story unfolded.

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Celilo Falls

I can almost see it; the lively lower waters of the Columbia, Celilo Falls bursting with Salmon and the growing cloud of dust of wagons making their way west on the Oregon Trail. I am especially envious of our members in the Eastern side of Oregon, who might recognize or have even visited some of the historic landmarks mentioned in detail in this book. 

The first image in the book gives a stark glimpse of what westward expansion really meant for the Nez Perce and most other tribes in the US during the late 1800’s. A migrating people who lived off the land for thousands of years saw these immigrants arrive [quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]”as a trickle, then a stream, then a flood.”

~Bobbie Conner, Director, Tamástslikt Cultural Institute in Pendleton, OR[/quote]

In the Fall of 1841, 24 immigrants came to Oregon. The next year, 114. In 1843, just two years later, 1000 immigrants came to Oregon.

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This period in time is profoundly sad, but an important part of American history nonetheless. When we talk about having a “Sense of Place” and being connected to an area and the communities therein, this story, that of the original inhabitants of this land, is key in understanding how and how not to move forward when it comes to “caring for the land and serving people.”

[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″] “Why is any of this important now?” [/quote] When we look at what this place was like 200 years ago and what has been developed in a relatively short time, it’s easy to see the reasons for tribal animosity towards any federal land management agency; being removed from their ancestral homes followed by the industrial development of those lands, rivers and streams. Even the treaties of both 1955 and 1963 were never honored. Miners in search of gold entered the Nez Perce reservation by the thousands as soon as six years after the 1963 treaty was signed. That would be more than enough to cause a major conflict should it ever happen to Americans today. A sincere understanding of this, as a rep for any US gov’t agency, is paramount in any land/resource management discussion with Tribes and cannot be understated. 

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Construction of Bonneville Dam – August 18, 1936

It’s all connected.

The reality of nature is that you cannot single-out and study anything without also studying many other related things. Unfortunately U.S. resource management agencies were formed around that very idea; that you can look at one thing in nature and manage it in total isolation of all of the other elements of an ecosystem. Today, land-management agencies are slowly seeing nature in a more holistic way; reflecting some of what native people were doing hundreds of years ago.

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One example of this is the current push from the Wildland Firefighting community around Wenatchee, Washington for more prescribed burns in the spring, thinning the forest to reduce devastating summer fires. Historically this is what the first Oregon Trail settlers arriving in Spring would see entering Oregon, a blue hue of smoke cast over what were then called the Blue Mountains, now the Wallowas. This practice opened the forest floor for hunting, but also made more resilient forests.

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Another example of a holistic approach to optimizing natural ecosystems, in my opinion, is the removal of deadbeat dams (dams producing less energy than they’re worth), which immediately opens up everything upstream for the return of salmon. This injection of fish upstream brings untold benefits to those ecosystems deprived of salmon runs since the start of the dam era.

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Construction of Condit Dam 

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Destruction of Condit Dam 

Phew… long blog, eh?

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. Starting a career with a land management agency would be an incredible privilege and my mom could finally relax, knowing I can afford my own socks and underwear. But on a serious note, I wrote this blog, not to point fingers or place blame, but to shine a light on how we are writing history every day and I can only hope that our nation keeps this history close to heart as we move forward in caring for the land and serving people, as always “for the greatest good” or as many natives put it “for the seventh generation.”


Articles related to topics mentioned in this blog:

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/fighting-fire-with-fire-state-policy-hampers-use-of-controlled-burns/

http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/04/columbia_river_tribal_village.html?cmpid=ENTERPRISE_TRIBALHOUSING_FACEBOOK_SP_ORPAGE

http://www.seattletimes.com/sports/state-and-tribes-still-at-impasse-on-salmon-fishing-seasons-all-of-puget-sound-closes-on-may-1/

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VetsWork: Interview with Mt. Adams District Ranger, Mose Jones Yellin (PODCAST)

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Greetings!

Below you will find audio of a short interview with Mt. Adams District Ranger, Mose Jones Yellin. Mose is in charge of the Mt. Adams Ranger District on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. He kindly took the time to share his thoughts on this past years accomplishments. These are a few of the topics discussed in these topic-by-track, easy-to-digest clips.

This is my first podcast so my apologies for any cuts or clips in the audio. Ive also added music, making these a nice soundtrack for your commute or even while you work! Yup, they are totally Safe-For-Work. You can listen here or download off our soundcloud and listen later.

If you live in the area and would like to talk on future podcasts about the Forest Service, users of the Mt. Adams Ranger District or the local Trout Lake/Gorge community… don’t hesitate to send us an email at: maiintern@mtadamsinstitute.com

To learn more about the Mt. Adams Institute please visit: www.mtadamsinstitute.com


 

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VetsWork: Nuts & Bolts – Snow & Fire


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In 2013 I started my first experience with the Mt. Adams Institute(MAI) clearing trails in the Mt. Hood National Forest through the Public Land Steward Program. 2014 was my first year as a VetsWork intern placed with the Gifford Pinchot National Forest Headquarters doing community engagement and social media.

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It’s now 2015 and I am in my second VetsWork internship, this time interning directly for MAIs Vetswork program.

Not only do I get to share current members blogs, doing social media, and photography, but I also get to work alongside some of the most kind and like-minded people I know, in one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever called home, right here at the Mt. Adams Ranger District.

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Two days out of the week I also get to work with Forest Service Recreation doing work on campgrounds and trails.

The start of this year has been a glimpse of what year-round forest recreation looks like. Every year is different, but one can usually rely on a certain seasonal timeline; when the snow arrives, when it melts, when the roads are open, when things get green. Those usually keep the workflow somewhat predictable. But this winter has been unique. Places that are usually in several feet of snow have been totally open meaning early access by the public. No big deal right? Not exactly.

Tree on Trail Dean (before)

Trails have to be cleared of fallen trees like the one above blocking a huge length of trail. Water systems have to be turned on and fixed if damaged by the freeze. New hazard trees around campgrounds have to be felled. Damaged signs have to be remade and put up. A whole slew of tasks have to happen in order for people to arrive at a campground and for it to be safe and enjoyable for everyone.

Trail sign being made

Hazard trees are hard to see cut down, but when you see inside these trees you lean on the wisdom of those who have been working in the forest all their lives. In most you will see the inner core of these hazard trees rotting-out with what is called “cubicle-butt rot.” What sounds like an office job hazard is actually the result of Phaeolus schweinitzii or velvet-top fungus.

Velvet Top

Infected trees will have “conks” of this fungi coming from the roots and sometimes from the trunk itself. The wood weakens, breaks down into brittle cube-like pieces and eventually into what looks and feels like dirt. At some point there just not enough cambrian (strong outer) layer to hold the big tree up.

Cut Hazard tree

Lots of trees have this, but some are in areas where people camp or hike. Depending on the location, the size, the lean, and amount of rot in a tree, it may be marked for cutting. The most important consideration is the potential for loss of life. Watching these huge oxygen-makers come down is pretty terrifying when you imagine being underneath one. As far as recreation goes, this is why they are cut, to save lives.

All in all the work with recreation is good. It is demanding work and you feel that when you get home, but the rewards are obvious. Fresh air, sun on your back, serving people, caring for and enjoying the land, learning the current realities of our relationship with the forest, sitting at a still alpine lake while enjoying your lunch, sharing the peace of this place with loved ones; For me this answers the “Why.”

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As odd as this winter has been, one can only hope for an equally odd down-pour of rain in the fall. I have the option to go to guard school this summer, to fight fire. If I attend, this season could add new meaning to the phrase “trial by fire” as the land might be bone dry, just waiting for a spark.

We’ll see which way the wind blows. Till next time reader.

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Greetings From VetsWork AmeriCorps Intern Jimmy Pardo

Jimmy

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The work we will do this year will absolutely have a great impact on everyone involved”

 

Greetings!

I’m honored, blessed, and humbled that I get to share with you another season with the Mt. Adam’s Institute, this time as part of their one-of-a-kind Vetswork program. Brendan Norman and Aaron Stanton, among others, have spent the last two years preparing for the launch of this much needed program. Through Vetswork they have asked and answered two very important questions.

 “Who is going to protect the land?”

“Who is going to take care of our men and women of the armed forces when they come home?”

As always, MAI finds a way to fill the needs of many by creating and connecting communities through service. Thankfully, with Americorps, MAI has partnered with the US Forest Service whose primary task is to “Care for the Land and Serve the People.”

“Who are we?”

Ten men and women, all who have served our country in some capacity, have traveled from all over the US to write ourselves into MAIs incredible unfolding story. Each of us have chosen this program because we share a deep connection to the natural world and wish to protect, maintain, and expand these natural places for present and future generations.

“What will we be doing?”

Each of us will be working in various parts of Oregon and Washington, side by side with Forest Service, National Parks, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, State Parks,  and city and county government sponsors. From wildlife refuge to city trail planning we will recruit volunteers, promote district events, and reinforce our service sites over the next 11months.

“Who am I?”

I am…Bob Ross. Richard Proenneke. John Muir. Teddy Roosevelt. Gifford Pinchot. Chief Joseph.

What we know of these fine folks has everything to do with what they did and what they loved. Through these blogs I will paint a better picture of who I am, but I hope it will be my actions that will be the more interesting tale. Gifford Pinchot was asking himself some very important questions a century ago and it was not without its challenges. His answer to these questions and challenges was conservation. Oregon, Washington, our National Forests… these places are like no other and unless someone advocates for their preservation, humans can and will destroy what it does not understand. I think people in the Pacific Northwest are very aware of what a gem they live in and take much pleasure from the mountains, forest and rivers. Although without protecting them from those who still believe these are inexhaustible resources, they will all be gone and so will the communities that rely on them.

Who will protect them?

We want you. In fact, we need you. The work we will do this year will absolutely have a great impact on everyone involved and I intend to make it “the greatest good, for the greatest number, for the longest run.” My hope is that some, if not ALL of you, will be inspired to share your thoughts and even get involved. Volunteers/sponsors for these programs offer their time and resources for a purpose greater than themselves. The events, projects, and overall purpose of our volunteer efforts will be to benefit our communities. Whatever skills you bring not only will directly impact our communities, but will be experiences that you will be able to take with you into the next chapter of your own adventure. Feel free to contact me through MAI or directly for more information.

With that…

…we pull our bowstrings back.

See you soon!

Jimmy